Milwaukie resident Stephen Bolte wants his neighbors to know that he's not a pothead.
Bolte, 40, had a stroke five years ago, and his agony was so extreme that he was taking various types of painkillers 'like candy.' But he reports that he's doing much better now that he's signed up for the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program and, after getting home from work, can snack on foods that are infused with pot's active ingredient.
It's even more convenient for him to stay functional now that he can purchase marijuana and related supplies at Green Prescription, right down the street in Milwaukie's Island Station neighborhood. During its move-in last month, the private club for OMMP cardholders generated as much praise from participants in the state program as it did neighborhood representatives promising to do everything possible to stop it.
'We absolutely need to find a way for this to NOT be a part of our community,' wrote Cindy Miguel of the Island Station neighborhood association in an email to city officials. 'We cannot go from having a guitar store that provided musical education and cultural benefits to our community to something so ridiculous and of no benefit.'
City Councilor Greg Chaimov, who lives in Island Station, pointed out that activist's efforts might be better spent on other livability concerns.
'As long as a business is legal (e.g., retail in a retail zone), we may not have a say. That's a matter of state law, not the city's choice. On those issues on which we do have a choice, we work really hard to make the city livable,' Chaimov wrote.
The city heard from dozens of neighborhood folks concerned about the nature of the Green Prescription business, which became the subject de jour for community meetings across the city. But then the controversy died down just as suddenly.
Planning Director Katie Mangle said that the short story was that the business owners scaled back their scope of what they're going to do. Limited commercial zones such as that along River Road don't allow cafes or bars, but Green Prescription is allowed to have offices and retail.
'It's really, from my point of view, quite technical,' Mangle said.
The owners of Green Prescription provided written answers for this story on the condition of anonymity. They noted that they do not think of themselves as a dispensary (a general classification associated with the failed California 'donation' model), but as an alternative-wellness and 'resource center' for OMMP patients.
In running the marijuana 'pharmacy' part of their business, the owners follow state law 'by the book' and offer a 'strict reimbursement program to the growers.' While marking up marijuana prices only enough to pay for overhead, they say they're making most of their profit off membership dues and merchandise.
Green Prescription is 'actively seeking' qualified acupuncture and massage therapists but has to be 'a bit more apprehensive' after the controversy a month ago. One critic is now subletting a portion of the space for another business.
Initially the owners had also planned on including an on-site medicating lounge for patients in the absence of zoning or parking restrictions prohibiting that practice. After further evaluation, they decided to play it safe and discourage anyone from getting in a motor vehicle after consuming medical marijuana.
One of the proprietors is a 27-year cancer survivor who witnessed her mother struggle with prescription narcotics following mastectomy, before medical marijuana was available to cancer patients.
'We are not drug dealers hiding behind a façade,' she wrote. 'I personally am an internationally known, highly respected expert on cancer rehabilitation and am here to help people who have suffered the ravages of cancer and become addicted to narcotics as the result of their chronic pain. I am happy to speak to anyone who wants to know more. I am quite certain that the majority of people who walk through our doors a skeptic will leave with a whole new outlook.'
Jennings Lodge resident Jamie Snyder, 35, volunteers at Green Prescription and was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, an often-painful condition of tumors growing on nerve tissue. The live-at-home dad says that his pot use allows him to play with, and take care of, his children and be a functional citizen.
'If it wasn't for medical marijuana, I'd have to be shut off with narcotics,' Snyder said.
His message to neighborhood skeptics: Would they rather have a pothead or a hippie around their children or drug dealers?
'I've got kids, too, so we're not the boogie man,' he said.